Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Good Evening Vietnam!

Insalata di Tagliatelle di Riso con Melanzane Piccolini sotto Aceto, Piselli, Pepe & Menta
Rice Noodle Salad with Pickled Eggplant, Peas, Peppers & Mint

What a treat these little pickled eggplants turned out to be! I am so glad they made it all the way from Vietnam over to Frankfurt to end up in my kitchen this evening!
I had no idea what to expect when I saw these at a local Asian market on Saturday and picked them up- well maybe I had a faint idea, as we make great pickled eggplant back home in Sicily... But these were a whole different little beast- and totally terrifically tasty!

These must be the "grand-daddies" of all eggplants- small and white, they really do look similar to quail eggs! They are slightly firmer than the large, purple eggplants you may be more accustomed to and despite their small size, they do contain the same amount of seeds as the large ones... so this is quite a different eating experience- but a very good one in any case! They are pickled in a mild vinegar and make for good and pleasant eating- I was surprised in a good way when I tried my first one this evening... and as soon as I did, I was inspired to make this delicious salad out of them! 

I read-up on these little beauties of course and discovered that they are apparently one of the most popular and common ingredients in Vietnamese soups- who knew? Well that will have to wait for a while, because much as I love soups, it was just TOO hot and TOO humid here tonight! Ugh! It's either all or nothing over here- so I decided to make the most of the heat- as we have a drastic fall in temperature forecast for the weekend! Ok- maybe I will make a soup then! ;-)

But this evening, I decided to improvise an Asian-influenced salad, based on the Thai glass-noodle salad I like so much with plenty of mint, which is also usual in Viatnamese dishes... as well as reminding me of my favorite Sicilian combination of eggplant and mint. As a seasoning, I decided to use Hoisin sauce mainly... so there was a lot of fusion going on! And absolutely no confusion! 

I started off by soaking the rice noodles in water for 10 minutes, then boiling them for 4-5 minutes, draining them and rinsing them immediately in plenty of cold water. This left the noodles perfect to transform into a great salad- I drizzled them  lightly with sesame oil and stirred them through so that they would not stick together and were ready to have all of the other ingredients added- which was really simple and fun!

I cut the little eggplants into quarters and in the went, followed by one small red and one yellow pepper, finely sliced, a handful of snow peas finely sliced, a Spring onion and a handful each of mint, parsley and cilantro. I kept the seasoning simple, with the juice of half a lime, a splash of fish sauce (nam pla), a generous squeeze of Hoisin and a little honey to balance the savory and sour flavors and teaspoon of ginger paste. This was ultra-tasty for one nice, big bowl of noodles!
Which would have been enough for two... but I was hungry... and alone... and it was equally suitable for one hungry cook! Don't hate me for it! I will share next time if you decide to drop by for a visit... 

I think the main thing that made this so nice was that I kept the leaves whole, which lets the flavors and textures come through so much more nicely than when everything gets chopped up and lets everything taste more refreshing and light. The tangly little eggplants are great little explosions for your taste-buds, but as I said, in a mild way. They are inexpensive and unusual and just sitting there on the shelf at your local Asian store waiting to be discovered... so go give them the love they deserve! And enjoy!


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